FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984) dir. Joseph Zito

Director: Joseph Zito
Producer: Frank Mancuso, Jr.
Writer: Barney Cohen
Stars: Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman, Ted White

FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)

Spoiler alert: It’s not the final chapter. Guess how many FRIDAY THE 13TH DVDs I own? Ten. This is the fourth. Despite its now-laughable misnomer, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER does ring of finality when it winds to its end. Aside from that, THE FINAL CHAPTER is, in the best possible way, more of the same—if bloodier, sexier (although PART 3 is nearly equal), and a significant step up in quality.

THE FINAL CHAPTER begins—like HALLOWEEN II (1981)—in the hospital following the killing spree of the last film. Unlike in HALLOWEEN II, the spectator follows not the survivor but the corpses into the ward. Two police officers wheel in body bags, rolling their eyes at the distracted flirtation of the nurses. As is so often the case in FRIDAY THE 13TH, such obliviousness will cost them dearly. A body bag disappears from the hospital that night—and the Camp Blood stalker returns to his turf to terrorize a new wave of camping teenagers.

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Best time to score: the middle of the night, at a rural hospital, after receiving a fresh batch of cadavers. (Bruce Mahler, Lisa Freeman.) (Image courtesy of Joseph Zito, João Fernandes.)

The teenagers staying on Crystal Lake are not unlike any group of Crystal Lake campers—there’s Sara (Barbara Howard), shy and virginal; Sam (Judie Aronson), the one “with a reputation”; and the usual swath of young men: handsome, masculine Paul (Alan Hayes) (Sam’s boyfriend, naturally); mopey, awkward Jimmy (Crispin Glover) (teased for being a “dead fuck,” which apparently means “bad in bed”); easygoing Doug (Peter Barton) (who is bunking with Sara, scandalizing her); and Teddy (Lawrence Monoson), a pimply stoner who offers comic relief in his clearly delusional belief that he, unlike Jimmy, is a regular ladykiller. (Spoiler alert: he strikes out. Surprised? I wasn’t.) The usual balance of saint and sinner is well-represented in this crowd—and if you were ever in doubt that sex is an integral part of the equation, the first death will more than convince you; (Spoiler alert: If you don’t want to know what the first death of the film is, don’t read the rest of this paragraph!) when the carful of teens passes a hippie looking for a ride, Sara and Sam suggest that they pick them up, but Paul drives on. To add insult to injury, as the car drives off, Teddy growls and barks at her from the back, insulting her size and, furious, she sits in a huff and, resigned to being there awhile, pulls out a banana and begins eating. As Jason slays her from behind, the banana is crushed in her hand, a symbol of the insult that her perceived sexlessness is to men, how her supposed ugliness is a transgression in itself.

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Sara: “I don’t know how you do it.” Sam: I don’t know how you DON’T!” (A conversation between Sam [Judie Aronson] and the ever-innocent Sara [Barbara Howard] about sex, appropriately taking place in a small, pink bathroom.) (Image courtesy of Joseph Zito, João Fernandes.)

Directly next-door to this rowdy and sexed-up bunch is the Jarvis family home. The presence of the family—wholesome as can be—is a distinct component, more par for the course in the suburbs of the HALLOWEEN franchise than in the youth-dominated wilderness of FRIDAY THE 13TH. We only get tastes of the family here and there between scenes of the kids next door partying, swimming, and getting down, but we quickly understand that they are close—often group-hugging or telling each other how much they love each other. It’s safe to say that few arguments break out in the Jarvis house, so agreeable are Trish (Kimberly Beck), the blonde teenager with a quick laugh and polite disposition; Tommy (a baby Corey Feldman), adorable if at times rambunctious; and their mother (Joan Freeman), Carol-Brady-like and unerringly dedicated to her darlings.

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Little Tommy (Corey Feldman), who bears the same name as the sharp little boy in HALLOWEEN (1978), discovers the grim saga of Jason. (Image courtesy of Joseph Zito, João Fernandes.)

In THE FINAL CHAPTER, there is less of the usual build of creeping paranoia and eerie scenery that foreshadows the massacre to come. Of course, from the first scene on, viewers are aware that Jason is on the move—but it’s easy to forget. As he comes closer, watching and plotting, no doubt, we don’t see him; instead, viewers are almost always with the group of teenagers, watching their hormones, triumphs, and doubts play out dramatically in various scenes in the cabin and, in the token FRIDAY THE 13TH skinny-dipping scene.

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Jimmy (Crispin Glover) puts the moves on Tina (Camilla Moore), one-half of the set of twins that the boys delightedly canoodle with at a house party. (Image courtesy of Joseph Zito, João Fernandes.)

This is not to say that THE FINAL CHAPTER isn’t scary. It is arguably the most appalling installment thus far, only for the most intrepid—and thick-skinned—fans. The inevitable deaths of the unlucky youths at Crystal Lake are, more often than not, startlingly gory, admittedly impressive in their variety and creativity. In the end, though, the most chilling part is Jason’s defeat, rather than his killings. His murder is the stuff of nightmares; his killer, a haunting, uncanny incarnation of the very last person you might suspect. The final scene of THE FINAL CHAPTER is likely to haunt you for sleepless nights to come.

Unpredictable twists and turns are a welcome part of THE FINAL CHAPTER, keeping the fourth installment of a long franchise from going lackluster. No plot point is unsurprising, but interestingly, if you pay attention, the filmmakers tell you what comes next. I tracked the deaths in order as they went and, though I never would have noticed without doing so, found that the actions of the characters prescribe when they will die. To describe further would be to give away pieces of a story that is all too thrilling to watch unfold; however, if you’re looking for a fun, extra challenge while watching, I recommend trying to create a roster of who will die in what order as you go. You may find that the plot cleverly foreshadows more than you could tell at first glance—watch what societal rules each character transgresses.

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With every installment of FRIDAY THE 13TH, the sexuality of the teens is kicked up a notch. This shot is in every film (the number of butts varying). (Image courtesy of Joseph Zito, João Fernandes.)

You might think that by the “final chapter,” a franchise would have lost steam, forsaken creative screenwriting for cliché. While there are obvious repeated motifs—horny teenage boys, plenty of exposed breasts, and the mighty presence of the camp itself—there is much innovation in the fourth installment of FRIDAY THE 13TH  as well. Along with the family and the usual crowd of youths, a sleuth, Rob (E. Erich Anderson), who has lost a sister to Jason’s clutches, comes to camp, bringing a kind of rough intelligence to the film. The Final Girl is assisted by a surprise savior, who takes an unsettling turn for the darker. Perhaps best—or worst—of all, in THE FINAL CHAPTER, viewers see more of Jason than ever before—at least, so far.

Gore: ★★★★

Horror: ★★★★★

Suspense: ★★

Terror: ★★★★

Quality: ★★★★

Overall: ★★★★

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